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Snow, rain delays planting in Treasure Valley

By SEAN ELLIS
Of the Capital Press

MERIDIAN, Idaho — An unusually harsh winter, followed by a string of rainstorms, has left farm fields soggy and delayed planting at least two weeks in many parts of the Treasure Valley area of southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon.

Many areas of the valley received record or near-record amounts of snowfall this winter, which left soils saturated when it melted.

Coupled with persistent and untimely rainstorms, many farmers have been prevented from planting crops that would normally be in the ground by now.

“It just keeps raining and raining and that's pushing everybody back,” said Meridian farmer Richard Durrant. “We hope the rest of spring treats us OK and we can catch up in May and June.”

Middleton, Idaho, farmer Sid Freeman is already two weeks late planting his onions and because of more rain in the immediate forecast, that's likely to turn into three weeks.

“We should be finishing up planting our onions by now and we're not,” he said.

Don Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co. in Homedale, Idaho, said many farmers are 20-25 days behind.

“There is so much (ground) work that still has to be done and the rain keeps delaying it,” he said. “There is still a lot of moisture to get rid of and we haven't had any real drying weather.”

Tolmie and others said the delay in planting is something they can deal with, for now.

“But you delay us another two weeks, and it's going to be really damn serious,” Tolmie said. “It can be lived with today but if it gets much later, people are going to be panicking.”

Nyssa, Ore., farmer Craig Froerer had all his sugar beets and onions planted by this time last year but hasn't been able to get them in the ground yet in 2017.

He said he will end up planting his onions at least on the second latest date since he started farming in 1978.

Froerer said the delay will likely reduce his sugar beet yields but isn't serious at this point. However, “If we get to the 15th of April and we still aren't going, then we'll start getting nervous.”

For fall planted crops, the heavy snowfall was a blessing, area farmers said, because it insulated those crops from temperatures in December and January that averaged about 10 degrees colder than normal.

“All the crops we planted in the fall fared pretty doggone well because of the snow cover, which acted as insulation against the frigid temperatures we ended up having,” Freeman said.

“My mint came through the winter better than I've seen it in a long time,” said Meridian farmer Drew Eggers. “And my winter wheat seemed to green up right after the snow melted.”

Snow mold damage to winter wheat and triticale that east Oregon farmer Bill Buhrig worried about several weeks ago has mostly vanished.

“Now you have to look diligently to find it,” he said. “Things seem to be rebounding real well.”

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Information from: The Capital Press (Ore.), http://www.capitalpress.com/washington

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